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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Environmental Quality Incentives ProgramThe Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers in a manner that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, agricultural producers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land.

Applications

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. The deadline for fiscal year 2021 applications is January 8. EQIP is open to all eligible agricultural producers and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities.

Applications accepted after the announced deadlines may be considered for funding if additional application rounds are announced or for potential consideration in 2022.  All applications are competitive and are ranked based on national, state and locally identified resource priorities and the overall benefit to the environment.

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.

Eligibility

Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch lands.

Applicants must:  

  • Control or own eligible land
  • Comply with adjusted gross income limitation provisions
  • Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements
  • Develop an NRCS EQIP plan of operations

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply. 

Participant Responsibilities

Applicants are responsible for completing and filing all application and eligibility paperwork as required. If funded, participants are required to sign a contract and agree to implement the planned conservation practices to NRCS standards and specifications as scheduled.

Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers/Ranchers, Military Veteran Farmers

The 2018 Farm Bill continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers and Veteran Farmers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include increased payment rates and advance payments of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.

Maryland is committed to reaching out to Historically Underserved individuals and groups. Historically Underserved participants may also receive higher payment rates in addition to being considered in high priority funding pools. See the Small & Limited and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers page for the NRCS definition of the Historically Underserved.

National and State Priorities

The following national priorities, consistent with statutory resources concerns that include soil, water, wildlife, air quality, and related natural resource concerns, may be used in EQIP implementation:

  1. Reductions of nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total maximum daily loads (TMDL) where available; the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination; and the reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations
  2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
  3. Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
  6. Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
  7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration

In addition, Maryland has identified the following priorities:

  • Air Quality Emissions
  • Aquatic Habitat
  • Concentrated Erosion
  • Degraded Plant Condition
  • Field Sediment, Nutrient and Pathogen Loss
  • Inefficient Energy Use
  • Livestock Production Limitation
  • Pest Pressure
  • Soil Quality Limitations
  • Storage and Handling of Pollutants
  • Terrestrial Habitat
  • Wind and Water Erosion

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in Maryland, payment rates and limits, eligible resource concerns, and state scoring criteria are developed based on input and recommendations from the State Technical Committee. The Commitee is made up of representatives from various agribusinesses, producer groups, conservation organizations, and federal, state, and tribal government agency representatives.

Fiscal Year 2021 EQIP Deadline

Applications submitted by January 8 will be evaluated to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2021. Applications received after that date will be accepted and evaluated for future rounds of funding.

To apply for EQIP, visit your local service center or www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

Maryland EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents

FY21 Screening Tool (PDF; 271kb)

FY21 Ranking Criteria (DOCX; 29kb)

National NRCS Initiatives

Conservation Activity Plans
Seasonal High Tunnel
Organic Initiative
On-Farm Energy Initiative
National Water Quality Initiative

Program Archives

Program Contacts

Mikel Williams Hawkins
Farm Bill Specialist
Phone: 443.482.2923
Email: mikel.williams@usda.gov

Jackie Byam
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
Phone: 443.482.2927
Email: jackie.byam@usda.gov